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Eclipse of Man 

Human Extinction and the Meaning of Progress

Charles T. Rubin

Eclipse of Man
September 2014 ~ Cloth ~ $23.99
ISBN-10: 1-59403-736-1
ISBN-13: 978-1-59403-736-8
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The latest book in our New Atlantis Books series. Now in stores: Amazon, Barnes & Noble.

Tomorrow has never looked better. Breakthroughs in fields like genetic engineering and nanotechnology promise to give us unprecedented power to redesign our bodies and our world. Futurists and activists tell us that we are drawing ever closer to a day when we will be as smart as computers, will be able to link our minds telepathically, and will live for centuries — or maybe forever. The perfection of a “posthuman” future awaits us.

Or so the story goes. In reality, the rush toward a posthuman destiny amounts to an ideology of human extinction, an ideology that sees little of value in humanity except the raw material for producing whatever might come next.

In Eclipse of Man, Charles T. Rubin examines intellectual precursors to the movement to perfect and replace the human race. He shows how today’s advocates of radical enhancement are — like their forebears — deeply dissatisfied with given human nature and fixated on grand visions of a future shaped by what they would call technological progress.

Moreover, Rubin argues that this myopic vision of progressivism stands in stark contrast to the more nuanced pictures of the human future that can be found among thoughtful writers of fiction. By exploring and criticizing the dreams of posthumanity, Rubin defends a more modest vision of the future, one that takes seriously both the limitations and the inherent dignity of our given nature.

Praise for Eclipse of Man

“Nano-utopia — the redesign of the body — the biochemistry of bliss — the immortality of an uploaded mind — the coming Singularity. It’s tempting to dismiss transhumanism as wacky. Charles T. Rubin shows why we should take seriously this most radical aspiration to go beyond man. Rubin uncovers the surprising and complex genealogy by which the quest for human betterment became a nihilistic embrace of human extinction. Drawing on works of the imagination from classical mythology to science fiction, from painting to movies to literature, Rubin sketches a philosophically deep response to the might-makes-right premise of transhumanism. He offers a more charitable view of abiding human imperfection — a view that welcomes change while affirming the continuity of the human condition. With clarity and beauty, Rubin defends the good of being human.

Diana Schaub
Professor of Political Science, Loyola University Maryland

“More than a decade ago, Charles T. Rubin pointed out that the utopian dreams of perfecting humanity amounted to nothing less than an ‘extinctionist project.’ In this new book he explores some of the confusions and contradictions inherent to transhumanism, thereby helping us to understand and appreciate better what it means to be human.”

Yuval Levin
Author of The Great Debate
Editor, National Affairs
Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center

Eclipse of Man is a hugely significant accomplishment. While pundits are immersed in worries about political progressivism, the real energy is with techno-progressivism. Charles T. Rubin really knows the technological premises, the psychology of perennial human longings, and the various fictional accounts of the predicament of particular lives techno-transformed that illuminate the utopian project of our time. The transhumanist future, Rubin meticulously explains, is neither as inevitable nor as reasonable as some believe, and he aims to give us the intellectual and moral resources to choose against or at least mitigate its anti-relational and depersonalizing excesses.

Peter A. Lawler
Dana Professor of Government, Berry College

Fair, judicious, and critical.... Rubin approaches his topic with admirable thoughtfulness and restraint.... The overall teaching of Charles Rubin’s unusually serious book is that we must remember what is good and why, so that we do not fall prey to the absurdly trivial, to self-destruction, or to venal political authority.

— Mark Blitz
Fletcher Jones Professor of Political Philosophy, Claremont McKenna College
Claremont Review of Books, Fall 2015

“Where the utopian progressive sees in overconsumption, pollution, and nuclear stockpiles a need for even greater power over nature, others might suggest that what is called for is a greater commitment to restraint and self-discipline. Rather than covet a set of more powerful tools, modern man might instead pause to master the extraordinary ones he already has — a very challenging, arduous project, especially if we understand ‘mastery’ to have moral, spiritual, and cultural dimensions. Rubin explores these dimensions by considering Tolstoy's critique of Enlightenment abstraction in War and Peace, as well as by way of artistic treatments of the legend of Daedalus and Icarus. Such forays into the humanities seem to me especially appropriate for an attempt to champion the human inheritance, and so without reservation I can recommend Rubin's book. It demonstrates the right way for scholars to grapple with the multi-faceted questions raised by advances in biotechnology, robotics, and computing.

Jerry Salyer
Catholic World Report, March 17, 2015

“Charles Rubin’s Eclipse of Man is a thoughtful warning about ‘transhumanists’ who aspire to make man immortal.

— Marvin Olasky
World magazine, February 2015

Eclipse of Man is a “serious response” to transhumanism, and Charles T. Rubin offers a “moving account of ordinary life” as a way to counter its grand vision. “Following his example, we must exert ourselves to understand the drive to develop and apply new technologies, and to put forward, rationally and with steadfastness, a cautionary argument that affirms the value of human life.”

Jacqueline Pfeffer Merrill
Library of Law & Liberty, January 12, 2015

“Rubin explores the roots of our desire to radically alter the human condition through technology. This urge has brought real advances in medicine, food production and many other fields. But Rubin identifies a disquieting tendency among technologically minded idealists to regard not the human condition but humanity itself as the problem. Such utopians hope that superior machines will take decisions out of our unreliable hands and so solve all our problems.

— Stephen Cave
Financial Times, March 20, 2015

Eclipse of Man explores what it means to be human and what the purpose of our existence might be.... Does progress ultimately require the extinction of our species as we know it today? Rubin explains that transhumanism’s ‘essential insight’ is that our capacity to reengineer ourselves has made us, for better or worse, our own god. The book also uses a clever collection of science-fiction writing and film in forming his counterarguments.

— Dan Cloer
Vision, Spring 2015